Why can’t we just love Fountains of Wayne for what it is?

Fountains of Wayne at the Bowery Ballroom. (Photos © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Weird that Fountains of Wayne, a band that crafts wonderful, highly relatable pop songs gets so much qualified praise and downright hate.

Well, I’m going on record to say, unapologetically, that after 15 years together FoW still knows how to rock.

Chris Collingwood and drummer Brian Young.

Reviews of the band’s new album, their first for Yep Roc, have been mixed. I get the sense that a lot of reviewers feel guilty about unabashedly enjoying and recommending the music of a band that’s been around for 15 years and has made only five albums in that time.

Well, this is one band that knows how to put on a good show. So let’s just love them for what they are.

The band proved how well it still clicks when it played the Bowery Ballroom on Aug. 3, I figured FoW would be going heavy on new material, since the show was less than a week ahead of the release of  Sky Full of Holes. (It’s out today, and if you haven’t heard anything from it yet, you’re missing out on a wonderful collection of songs.)

To their credit, the band kicked off the set with two great old songs “Little Red Light” and “The Valley of Malls” before diving into the excellent, bittersweet new “Summer Place” and then returning to the back catalog for “Someone to Love.”

Adam Schlesinger

Frontmen Chris Collingwood, the band’s main singer, and Adam Schlesinger, the bass player (who you may know better through his work as composer of the Broadway musical Cry Baby or as a member of pop supergroup Tinted Windows), led the band on a romp through songs old and new, saving fan favorite “Radiation Vibe” with bits of other pop songs, including Paul McCartney and Wings tune “Jet,” into the mix before the final verse.

Jody Porter blows smoke.

Lead guitarist Jody Porter showed off his individuality throughout the set, sometimes to the point of looking like he was somewhere else, perhaps in another band. He also made a point to take advantage of a loophole in NYC no-smoking rules that allow performers onstage to puff away.

Brian Young on drums (he also plays with the Pixies), kept time well, but stayed in the background, literally as well as figuratively. He never showed off or grabbed for the spotlight. He just bashed the skins, and quite well.

Nicole Atkins, a Neptune, N.J., native, opened the evening with a scorching set, accompanied only by her guitarist, the very talented Irina Yalkowsky. Nicole thanked Fountains of Wayne for inviting her to be part of Jersey Night at the Bowery Ballroom (in case you don’t know, Fountains of Wayne was a long-lived lawn-ornament shop in Wayne, N.J.), even though FoW isn’t really a Jersey band.

Nicole Atkins, right, with Irina Yalkowsky.

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